Author: Diva Urd
Beta: Zelgadis55 (thank you!)
Warnings: Violence, Language, Major Spoilers for Reload.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Saiyuki, and I do not pursue any financial gain with this fic.
You could take this fic as an inofficial "sequel" to "Man of Science", even though it was conceived as a standalone. You do not have to read "Man of Science" to understand this fic. Enjoy!
Complete darkness surrounds him, his own ragged breathing the only thing in his ears.
Where is he?
Genjo Sanzo leans against the closest wall in the labyrinthine room, gun at the ready. After an endless-seeming travel westwards, they have finally made it to Houtou Castle. Once the initial fight at the gates was over, the group split up to find the throne room, where Gyuumaou's body is most likely kept. But Sanzo searches for another thing, as well: His master's Seiten Sutra, which he is sure is in the possession of the man in this room.
Mere minutes ago, he happened upon this place, deep within the bowels of the castle, the sign on the door proclaiming it as the one he has been looking for. He shouldn't have acted so rashly - he should have known that he knew he was coming, waited for the others until entering the lion's den. Now, it is too late for turning back - the lights are out, the door is closed, there is no way but forward.
Absurdly, he suddenly realizes that his lungs are burning with the familiar craving for nicotine, only to remember that he has lost both lighter and cigarettes during the fight with the guards. In a rare moment of not paying attention, one of the youkai got too close to him, not only managing to injure him - albeit only lightly before being killed by a shot from his gun - but also succeeding in tearing up his robe. He only realized his loss after leaving the scene of the battle and at that time, backtracking for the items seemed like an idiotic idea, so he hadn't bothered.
Ch. I would look less like an idiot now if I had the damn lighter - at least I could see something in this dump.
He moves around another corner, making sure to listen for any treacherous noises before leaving his cover. Just like the bastard to make me his lab rat in his own personal maze...
Suddenly, a voice echoes through the dark, seemingly coming from all directions at once and assaulting his ear drums with its mocking timbre.
"Welcome to Houtou Castle, Kouryuu. Long time, no see - or rather, you have not seen me for a while. I took the liberty of watching your group fairly closely, as you probably know."
Sanzo grits his teeth.
"Why don't you come out and fight like a man, Ukoku?" he snarls.
Only laughter answers him.
Nii Jenyi monitors the enraged priest's reactions to his address on various screen readouts, a wicked smile on his face. Next to him on the table, a metal lighter reflects the brightness of the ceiling lights, underneath it a half-smoked pack of Marlboros. How terribly accommodating of Genjo Sanzo to lose the one item that might have aided him in his current situation. Not that coincidence had very much to do with it...
His smile widens and he chuckles slightly as he murmurs to himself, "What's wrong, Kouryuu? Need a light?"
Then, he turns to his ever-present companion and asks,
"How long should we play with him, little one? I find him quite amusing, but I have the feeling he might not last very long..."
The bunny stares at him out of dull button eyes.
Nii nods. "You're right, of course. We should make the game a little more...interesting."
He reaches out and pushes a button on the control board.
Sanzo is moving along a long straight passage when a mechanical noise sounds from deep within the walls, and the barrier he is currently holding on to to keep his direction starts to move inward.
With a murmured curse, he speeds up his steps, until he is running along the narrowing path, still in total darkness, vaguely wondering if this is it and Ukoku's machinery will crush him to death.
He reaches the far end of the passage just in time - stopping in an intersection, he hears a grating sound as two metal walls meet less than an arm's reach behind him.
Before he can even catch his breath, that hated voice speaks up again.
"Tell me, Kouryuu... what would you do if I actually faced you directly?"
The question is so absurd that Sanzo can't help but bark out a disbelieving laugh.
"What do you think, you bastard? I will kill you!"
Sanzo resumes walking, trying his best to keep to short passages without dead ends in the nearly complete darkness of the labyrinth, just in case the walls move in on him again.
Then, Ukoku manages to ask him an even more idiotic question.
"What would you do that for?"
Don't talk to him; he is just trying to catch you off guard.
Despite that very sensible thought, Sanzo finds he is answering before even registering he is doing so.
"You owe me two lives, traitor," he yells back, nothing but bitterness in his tone. "That of my master - and my own. If I could, I would kill you twice!"
This time, the next question follows immediately.
"What makes you think that I was the one who ruined your life, Kouryuu? I might be the one who made you into what you are today - but the one who is responsible for the things that happened is none other than Koumyou Sanzo."
Sanzo sneers in the darkness as he is moving around another corner.
"I can't wait to hear an explanation for that one."
In his control room, Nii smirks. Who would have thought it would be so easy to play out his game according to plan?
He is not above killing his adversary, however, his victory will be so much sweeter if he can manage to utterly destroy him - the one Koumyou Sanzo called the Sun.
If Koumyou's whelp puts that gun of his to his own head and pulls the trigger, the triumph of Darkness will be complete.
Sanzo is lost, and has been for some time. At the beginning, it would have still been possible to turn back and leave the labyrinth, but he can no longer keep track of all the passages he has traversed, especially since some of them are closed now. Ukoku - or Nii Jenyi, as he calls himself nowadays - has not spoken to him in the last five minutes, and he cannot help but think that this is a good thing.
As if prompted by his thoughts, Ukoku's voice echoes through the darkness once more.
"Are you sure you want to hear an explanation, little Kouryuu? It might reveal some... unpleasant truths."
More mocking laughter.
Sanzo doesn't answer, his thoughts focused on moving forward, finding the end of this never-ending maze, finding the spider in the middle of the web.
"Very well then," Ukoku continues.
"Did you know that your dear Koumyou," the sneer is clearly audible in his voice, "was the one who started all this? Long ago, he told me that one day, you would triumph over me. Call it... a challenge."
Sanzo's eyes widen. Despite the fact that he doesn't trust Ukoku, he cannot detect falsehood in his voice. Could this truly be the reason for all of this, for the blasted journey west, for the constant threats to their lives? Was this madness raging in Tougenkyou nothing but a response to a perceived challenge?
"You should also know that I asked him for his sutra in peace. He had two, it wouldn't have meant anything to him to lose one of them - he never used them, anyway. If he had complied, it would not have been necessary to send the raiding party."
The last statement has Sanzo clenching his fists. How dare the bastard imply that his master's death was his own fault!
However, a trace of doubt claws itself into his heart. If Koumyou had given Ukoku the sutra... would he still be alive today?
He could be. Yes, it would have been the wrong thing to do, and considering that Ukoku wants all the sutras, he still might have come for the Maten Sutra at some point, but... he could be alive. We could have handled this situation together. He wouldn't have left me all alone...
While he is still pondering this, Ukoku assaults him with yet another question.
"And what will you do once you have killed me, little Kouryuu?"
Nii is delighted that this question obviously makes his adversary stop dead. The whelp does not have a clue that the doctor's instruments can pick up his stress level based on his skin reaction and pulse, measured through sensors in the walls he is leaning on. Right now, they are so high that Nii is sure he will soon crack from the strain. Of course, the cameras installed under the ceiling are currently useless - they were never set up to monitor infrared signatures - but the darkness does not only suit his purposes well enough, it also is a requisite to drive his point home. Furthermore, it is easy enough to keep track of him - he might not see him, but he breathes so loudly Nii would probably even be able to hear him without augmentation by the sensor system.
"As I said," he continues to push, "I made you what you are today. You are as much my creature as Kami was. You want revenge for what I did to you? Isn't that your whole reason for living anymore since your dear master's death? Once you put that gun to my head and a bullet in my brain, what will you do? Sure, there is still Gyuumaou to dispose of, but once that is done, you have effectively outlived your sole purpose in life. A terrifying prospect, I am sure."
His adversary's hand leaves the wall, the signal feed ceases. No answer is given to his taunts.
Wonderful - this might just mean Nii already brought him to his knees.
"Furthermore," he elaborates, thin lips stretching into a grin once more, "aren't you currently contemplating doing the same thing to me that I did to your master - gaining possession of a sutra, no matter what, even if it means killing the current keeper? Sure, you can tell yourself you are doing it for justice, to stop me in my evil ways and fulfill your assignment, but we both know that this is not what motivates you. I find it curious that you would actually want to become an abomination like me."
Unable to hear
anything but Ukoku's voice, Sanzo kneels on the ground, eyes wide,
images flashing through his mind. Koumyou, Kami-sama, Ukoku... Pain.
The firing flash in the barrel of his gun as he kills uncounted enemies...
Once he completes what he set out to do, might he truly become like his nemesis? Would he grasp at perceived challenges because of his soul yearning for a new purpose? He has disposed of anyone standing in his way during the course of the journey - wouldn't he do so again, not even asking about whether the ones blocking his road might be innocents before snuffing out their lives?
Somewhere above him, the disembodied voice goes on and on.
"However our little stint in here is going to end, I am sure you realize that I have won regardless. You kill me; you become a monster like me. You leave; you fail in your mission and your personal quest for revenge. You cannot see anything in a room that is completely under my control, rather limiting your chances of survival already. What a bind, what a conundrum - the 'Sun' unable to defeat the 'Night' in the end! This is checkmate, my dear Kouryuu - one white king against several black pieces ganging up on him..."
Why won't he shut the hell up?
The images refuse to leave his head, mocking him in faster and faster succession, the gun flashing as a bullet leaves its barrel the most prevalent among them. The ground cold underneath his trembling hands...
Nii looks up from the microphone when the sharp retort of a gunshot echoes through the room. He checks the monitor readouts - and sure enough, there has been no trace of activity recorded by the wall sensors, aside from the noise of the shot. No harsh breathing anymore, no footsteps. Nothing but silence.
"That was easy," he mutters, half to the bunny and half to himself. Before he gets some servant to clean up the mess, however, he decides to deliver a final taunt over the speaker system - if, for some reason, the monk is still alive out there, he might goad him into giving his position away once more.
He activates the microphone and sneers, "How swell! In the end, the frightened child is done in by his own fear of the future! I must say that I had expected more from you, Kouryuu..."
His little speech falters when he suddenly feels the barrel of a gun being pressed against the back of his head.
"I can't say I'm impressed by you, either, Ukoku. Get up, and keep your hands off those controls."
Nii does as he is told, picking up his bunny in the process. He can almost hear how the person behind him stiffens, ready to shoot. But he doubts he will be shot in the back without ample provocation - after all, he has not disclosed the location of the Seiten Sutra yet. Of course, if his adversary knew what is contained in the stuffed toy, he would think twice about leaving him alive to inquire about it...
He turns around and faces Genjo Sanzo, a sly smile on his features.
Sanzo's own smile is dark, almost feral. Blood is on his sleeves; it seeps through his robe from one of his legs, drips from cuts and nicks in his face.
Nii eyes him quietly for a moment, the smile never vanishing off his face.
"So, tell me... how did you figure out I had no way to actually see you? You know, for future reference."
Predictably, the referral to his own future gains him a sneer from his opponent.
"You talked too much, Ukoku. After I stopped using the walls as a lead, it seemed you were trying to get me to respond to you, probably to pinpoint my location - and when you stopped talking after the shot, I was sure I was right."
"Bravo!" Nii applauds sarcastically. "I take it you also realized that there were no tracking sensors in the floor, considering the temperature difference between it and the wall?"
Sanzo huffs. "Hn, a child could have figured that one out."
Nii's smile never wavers. "I commend you on your stealth. Allow me one more question before we get to the more important details of our little encounter... how did you ultimately find the entrance? After all, you shouldn't have been able to see anything out there - you could have walked right past it even if you were close by... ohh, I see. Apparently, you didn't just fire your gun to fool me, but to gain a short instance of light from the firing flash. Quite well done, Kouryuu, if I say so myself."
The compliment earns him a dirty look from Sanzo, who chooses not to respond.
"So... and now, what are the two of us going to do? The Seiten Sutra is not in this room, and I am not exactly planning on telling you where it is located. It is your prerogative to kill me, should I not answer a question concerning its whereabouts, but then, you will never find it."
Sanzo's eyes narrow. "Then again, I could just kill you and search for it in the rubble once everything has been taken care of."
Nii's smile widens to a grin. "I take it you have made your decision? Very well then - kill me if you can!"
Before Sanzo can even think of pulling the trigger, he tosses the plush bunny into the air, shouting the words to release the already-prepared Muten Sutra hidden in its innards. The toy rips apart, the Scripture of No Heaven flaring with black fire as its ends attempt to wrap themselves around Genjo Sanzo to welcome him to oblivion - only to be deflected by a blinding white cocoon the Maten Sutra forms around its keeper at the very last moment.
Sanzo's preparedness does not come unexpected - Nii would have been disappointed had it been so easy to kill his adversary after he managed to find his way through the labyrinth. Obviously, his travails of the journey west prepared him well for the final confrontation - to the point where it truly has become a battle of equals.
Ukoku Sanzo's martial arts skills might be rusty through years of disuse, but he has no trouble remembering as he launches himself at Genjo Sanzo, already chanting the next series of instructions for the sutra under his breath while simultaneously kicking the gun out of his enemy's hand. Genjo Sanzo dodges the follow-up aimed for his head, starting to chant instructions himself, shortening the incantation in all possible places to get done in time. The sutras' supernatural energies clash once more, each of them trying to envelop the other, casting a flash of oddly grey light on the two fighting figures.
Just as suddenly as the fight has started, it comes to an end when Sanzo swipes Nii's legs away from under him, making him fall hard on his back. Before he can even contemplate getting up again, let alone resume the incantation he started, his adversary has him pinned on the floor.
For the first time since their encounter at Kinzan Temple so many years ago, Nii directly looks into the eyes of Koumyou Sanzo's former apprentice, and what he sees behind all the murderous intent in these violet irises inspires an emotion he has never felt before: true fear.
These are not the eyes of a twenty-three year old man. They belong to a being a thousand times older than that, a soul who has experienced all possible forms of suffering - and who refuses to take it anymore.
"For future reference," Nii's personal nemesis whispers in a tone of deadly irony, "my name... is Genjo Sanzo."
One swift motion, one sharp crack akin to a breaking tree branch, and the black soul of Ukoku Sanzo flees his body to be enveloped by darkness.
Genjo Sanzo lets go of his adversary's head, which is now limply lolling on his broken neck at an unnatural angle before it finally hits the ground. He picks up his gun from where it has fallen and lights a cigarette.
Maybe Ukoku has been right - maybe he has condemned himself to a life without purpose. However, it is a price he gladly pays for the end of this hell.
He gathers the two scrolls off the floor, placing his own scripture back on his shoulders and the Muten Sutra in one of the hidden pockets of his robes.
After reactivating the lights outside the control room, Genjo Sanzo leaves the site of the final confrontation between him and Ukoku without sparing it so much as a second glance. He has a mission to fulfill...
Wow, my first fic in a long while... hope I haven't lost my touch completely! As for the whole sutra thing, I got the idea when I remembered that Sanzo seemed to vary his incantation before the "Makai Tenjou" sometimes, and that the sutra could perform different tasks (binding, protecting, destroying). Also, there was at least one point in "Gensoumaden" where the sutra did its "thing" without him chanting beforehand, which I took as an instance where he had actually "instructed" it before he released it.
I hope you enjoyed! I am looking forward to your comments!